It has been a long time since I've been inspired to post in CHonTrack. Not only was I inspired Sunday while watching NASCAR at Phoenix, but I was moved to tears.
I breathlessly watched as Ryan Newman, my favorite driver, restarted in first place following a late race caution. He stayed out on old tires, while most of the rest of the field pitted for new rubber. Ryan had been fast for the entire race, but this gutsy strategy, combined with the sheer will to get it done brought him over the finish line to take the checkered flag.
This was the first race Newman had won since 2013 when he won at Indianapolis. Even the prestige of winning at the Brickyard can only go so far. Newman was hungry for a win. He hadn't posted a win since joining Richard Childress Racing, now in his fourth season. He came oh-so-close to winning the race as well as the 2014 championship, but close doesn't really count in the large scheme of things. So, this was a sweet win for Newman and all of those of us who faithfully watch him every week.
This race started out like so many others. Newman's once-stellar qualifying efforts which earned him the nickname "Rocketman" have waned in recent years. He hasn't won a pole since 2013 either. Newman didn't make it to the second round of qualifying; he was set to start in position #22. I have to admit, my expectations weren't all that great, going into Sunday's race.
But things started looking up as Newman kept picking off car after car. There were also some problems with pit stops. As Newman would fight for every position on the track, he lost several due to slow pit stops. But that improved during the race as well. On the first stop, I believe I recall his losing five spots. While on the last pit stop, he actually gained a spot.
Newman was, at times, the fastest car on the track. Anyone who has watched him, knows that when Newman has a fast car, he knows how to put it into Victory Lane. And, as he has proven so often, he and his team have perfected racing strategy. That was evident on that last call when Crew Chief Luke Lambert told him to stay out when nearly everyone else pitted. Staying out even on old tires gave him the track position he needed. He used the clean air ahead of him to rocket forward on the restart and never look back. Well, he probably did look back, using the rear view mirror enough to realize he had this one.
It was obviously a grueling race, on a hot day in the desert. It took its toll on him, but Newman is a good winner. Congratulations to Ryan, Luke, and the entire #31 team for a job well done. Your fans appreciate you and share in your victory.